What did the nuclear power industry get for playing footsie with the
"greens" on global warming? A knife in the back, it looks like. The
greens now are saying that emission-free nuclear power may actually
contribute to climate change.
After decades of having its growth entirely stymied by anti-nuclear
environmentalists, the industry decided to help the greens lobby for
global warming regulation in hopes of easing opposition to the
expansion of nuclear power. Companies like Exelon, FPL Group and NRG
Energy, for example, helped the greens form the U.S. Climate Action
Partnership (USCAP) — a coalition of big businesses and green groups
that has been leading the charge on Capitol Hill for global warming
But as the saying goes, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.
A case in point is the proposed addition of a third reactor at the
Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland. The greens
formed a group euphemistically called the Chesapeake Safe Energy
Coalition (CSEC) to oppose the new reactor. Members of the CSEC are
hardcore anti-nuclear activists including the Sierra Club, Public
Citizen, Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Maryland
Green Party and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.
A June 2007 report by Maryland PIRG lays out the standard
anti-nuclear objections against the proposed reactor, including that
nuclear plants are expensive to build, radiation is inherently
dangerous, uranium mining is environmentally destructive, and that
nuclear waste "remains dangerous for thousands of years and no nation
on earth has developed an acceptable solution for safely disposing of
But in this era of global warming hysteria, the standard arguments apparently aren’t working.
Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley — who is well-regarded by
environmentalists for consuming and metabolizing the green Kool-Aid on
global warming — supports the Calvert Cliffs expansion. O’Malley
apparently realizes that Maryland needs the electricity given the fact
that the state is facing rolling blackouts on summer days starting as
early as 2011. Moreover, nuclear power is emissions-free, another plus
for Maryland’s warmer-in-chief. His support is even more remarkable
since he recently barred the installation of wind turbines on public
The governor’s picking nukes over wind must have sent the greens
into meltdown. So in response, the desperate greens came up with a
bizarre new argument: nuclear power causes global warming.
That’s right, nuclear is the latest form of "dirty" energy. How can
that be, you ask? Nuclear power doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, does
it? Well, not directly, the greens argue. But nuclear power "worsens
climate change," says prominent environmentalist Amory Lovins in a new paper,
because it diverts money away from alternative energy and efficiency
efforts that would otherwise reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Adding
insult to injury, Lovins also says that nuclear power is "grossly
uncompetitive, unneeded and obsolete" and "weakens electric reliability
and national security."
The head of Maryland PIRG picked up on Lovins’ line of thinking,
telling Carbon Control News (Aug. 8) that "efficiency programs and
renewables such as wind and solar can provide more carbon-abatement per
dollar while avoiding the downsides of nuclear power."
The movement to block the Calvert Cliffs plant also has an
international component. Greenpeace has taken its anti-nuclear jihad to
Flamanville, Finland, where a private utility company is currently
building a European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) — a safer, more reliable
and cheaper next-generation reactor. But Greenpeace has alleged
technical and safety problems with the EPR and misconduct in the Finns’
safety approval process. Though the Finnish regulatory authority has
rejected the misconduct claims, it nevertheless announced that it plans
further studies on the EPR’s safety.
This, of course, has delighted the opponents of the Calvert Cliffs
expansion since the reactor that has been proposed to be built is an
And the greens aren’t just going after the Calvert Cliffs plant,
they are turning their sights on the entire nuclear industry. No doubt
this is a direct result of the industry’s effort to expand in the wake
of global warming hysteria, which has taken the form of more than 20
applications to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency for new plant
Lovins claims "the nuclear industry’s sales pitch is false" and that
"the supposed nuclear revival is a carefully manufactured illusion that
seeks to become a self-fulfilling prophecy." The Natural Resources
Defense Council has a "fact sheet" on its web site entitled "New
Nuclear Power Plants Are Not a Solution for America’s Energy Needs."
Environmental Defense ominously intones on its web site that,
"Serious questions of safety, security, waste and proliferation
surround the issue of nuclear power. Until these questions are resolved
satisfactorily, Environmental Defense cannot support an expansion of
nuclear generating capacity."
The World Resources Institute says, "And while it can be argued that
the actual risks of nuclear power are far lower than the perceived
risks, and that coal-fired power plants have killed a far greater
number of people than nuclear energy, most communities do not want
nuclear plants nearby."
While the nuclear industry has no reason to expect better treatment
from activists like Lovins, shouldn’t it get at least a little friendly
lip service from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental
Defense and the World Resources Institute — its lobbying partners in
USCAP?Instead, these groups are happy to exploit the influence and
resources of the likes of Exelon, FPL Group and NRG Energy to promote
global warming regulation, but then feel no compunction about trying to
tear down the partners it exploited.
Is the industry OK with such two-facedness? Will anyone complain or drop out of USCAP? We’ll see.
Meantime, it’s ironic and disturbing that the nuclear industry can
figure out how to safely and productively harness the power of the
atom, but it can’t figure out that lobbying with the enemy is a bad
Steven Milloy, who publishes JunkScience.com and
DemandDebate.com, is an advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct
scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.